Schizo Tech

"Those're guns! Whoever heard of guns in a samurai flick!!?"
A movie director, Astro Boy, "The Invisible Giant"

The setting and timeline may seem at first to be The Middle Ages, The Colonial Period, or some Fantasy Counterpart Culture thereof, but when you look closer, you find polyester, robots, or other high-tech toys in between the horse-drawn wagons and wattle-and-daub buildings. There's generally no rhyme or reason for which technologies are anachronistically present besides the Rule of Cool. Sometimes these may be leftovers from a lost technological civilization, or perhaps it could be that science developed along a different path than ours, allowing for more advanced technology in one field, while stagnating in others, but most of the time there is no explanation whatsoever for the bizarre mix of medieval and futuristic.

Schizo Tech is a key component of Punk Punk. It's also the foundation for Fantasy Gun Control. Compare Decade Dissonance for when one side has all the cool toys. When a story nominally set in a real-life historical period has this problem, you've got yourself some tasty Anachronism Stew. It may be because an isolated branch of mankind created an Advanced Ancient Acropolis. After the End is normally a good justification of this; often resulting in Scavenger World, especially when you have a faction with Low Culture, High Tech.

When evaluating a candidate for this trope, try not to confuse anachronisms with non-western-isms. For example, a kimono can be just as modern as a three-piece suit, if not more so. Likewise, do not confuse anachronism for cosmetic purposes with anachronism of technological capability. For example, though you will see lots of Zeppelins from Another World at work in Schizo Tech, Airships themselves are not more or less advanced than airplanes or helicopters, just suited to different situations—namely, ones that value endurance, payload and fuel efficiency over speed and maneuverability. Alternatively, a judge wearing an eighteenth century robe and wig while judging cybercrime cases is not schizo tech, but simply a remnant of the Good Old Ways. And again, Tropes Are Still Not Bad. It's also worth noting that in the alternate history of a candidate, the culture and style may simply be different, so while their older architecture may seem to jar with their higher levels of technology, it may be that that style of architecture is just "in" at that time. In dealing with other cultures, also remember that the concept of Technology Levels is flawed, and that real societies are not obliged to all invent the same things in the same order.

Most comic book universes have this trope as a natural consequence: the wondrous science held by the heroes and villains would, if even partially distributed, violate the surprisingly mundane world that divides the superhero genre from outright Speculative Fiction. Examples and subversions are noted below.

This trope has frequently been Truth in Television depending on the circumstances, with historical works involving World War I and other major events that were technological 'kitchen sink' like affairs (with cavalry charges co-existing with airplane bombing runs) one hundred percent qualifying. Beware: Many sci-fi settings that aren't harder than diamond can become this constantly if you think about it too hard.

Compare Adventure-Friendly World, Anachronism Stew, Culture Chop Suey, and Fantasy Kitchen Sink. Technology Levels is what this trope averts. As well as Medieval European Fantasy, of course. If the old stuff proves as effective as the new stuff, you've also got an Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age. It may also be the byproduct of a Retro Universe. Contrast Days of Future Past. Not to be confused with tech used by schizophrenics.


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    Comic Books 
  • Comic books seem to be egregious examples of this. Batman's nemesis Mr. Freeze has invented a freeze-ray; Lex Luthor currently waltzes around in a battlesuit full of crazy power and can probably fly; Firestorm can synthesize any material in any quantity (I'm looking at you, lithium); Thanagarian N-th metal is apparently capable of bestowing flight; Black Lightning is capable of generating mounds and mounds of electrical current, and... well, you get the idea. And yet, citizens of Earth are still using gasoline-fuelled cars. This is usually either justified with the technology either being created by super geniuses and only working for them, or being in the domain of only aliens, magic-wielders or the very, very rich/military. Or maybe they just don't trust regular people with these wonderful toys - after all, someone probably could mass-produce cars fueled by the Power Cosmic, but suppose someone back-engineers them into weapons?
    • Lampshaded somewhat in the first Superman/Batman comic. Alfred is guarding the sewer entrance to the Batcave with a shotgun. Superman remarks on it, telling Batman "You didn't have an extra freeze ray gun you could've given him?"
    • Lampshaded in Starman, when Jack Knight tells his father that when he invented an unlimited, clean source of power in the 1940s, he should have used it to make cosmic-powered cars instead of flying around fighting crime. Jack's father actually goes on to construct a cosmic power plant big enough to power the entire county, which hasn't been seen since in the DCU.
    • Oracle (the former Batgirl crippled by the Joker and current organizer of the Birds of Prey) plays with this. In theory, she could have the use of her legs back instantly with the tech that the JLA and Batman have available. She refuses to use it, however, until it is available to everyone.
    • Like many things, Watchmen deconstructs this trope a bit: Dr. Manhattan and others actually invent a ton of things that change the world. Cars are now electric, eliminating the need for gasoline powered vehicles, and among other things Rorschach's constantly shifting mask is an invention of Dr. Manhattan's designed originally as just an ornate dress.
  • Pre-Crisis Krypton had all manner of advanced tech, with the single, sometimes-lampshaded exception of a space program. Krypton only started developing space flight within a single generation before its destruction, and largely abandoned it after a catastrophe destroyed one of their moons (oops! This is what got Jax-Ur exiled to the Phantom Zone). But the reason for this lack of space tech is simple: In Pre-Crisis days, Krypton was freaking huge, with monstrous gravity that any rocket would have to fight. The breakthrough that finally allowed them to have spaceflight at all was Jor-El's invention of antigravity. All this meant that Jor-El was never able to build the evacuation fleet he wanted, and only had one little home-made rocket for baby Kal-El.
    • This mostly just justifies why the Kryptonians didn't travel the galaxy as Supermen once they escaped the light of their red sun. In theory, if they had gotten far enough away, they could simply continue travelling without the need for spaceships.
    • More modern stories often explain this as a cultural shift; Kryptonians did at some point attempt to develop space travel (though not clear to what extent) but abandoned it as the planet became more xenophobic.
  • Marvel Comics is guilty of this as well. Stark Industries have technology that really should have revolutionized the world by now, SHIELD have jetpacks and spaceships (technically, SWORD has the spaceships, but whatever), Charles Xavier has a global surveillance system (mutant only), Henry Pym has his shrinking particles, and of course, Reed Richards Is Useless.
    • This huge waste of world changing technology is noted as one of Pym's "sins" in Paradise X since Pym could have saved many more lives by adapting his technology to industry or health technology rather than using it to beat up criminals.
    • Even before the Civil War, Tony Stark tried letting the U.S. government use some low-powered suits of Powered Armor a few times. Inevitably, the armor ended up getting used for purposes that were evil or stupid and Tony ended up regretting the decision.
    • Latveria is one of the most advanced nations on Earth, but most of the landscape looks quaint and medieval—because Doctor Doom likes the quaint medieval look.
    • Wakanda, home of the Black Panther, goes even beyond Latveria in some versions. Someone might stumble on what looks like a harmless and primitive—at best Bronze Age—African village on the edge of the country and mistake it for an easy target only to discover the apparently decorative stone statues are shooting plasma bolts, armed flying drones are being launched from a wooden hut, and the spears those loincloth-wearing warriors are tossing? Rocket-boosted self-guided smart missiles with high explosive armour-piercing warheads.
  • Beetle Bailey's been going since The Fifties and the Korean War, so Beetle and his unit wear Korea-era uniforms, drive Jeeps, and use old-fashioned rifles. In more recent strips, there are computers, microphone headsets, modern-style golf, and other modern technology, but the 50s tech has never gone away.
  • Nävis, the protagonist of the French comic series Sillage, lives in a treehouse inside a sort of biosphere spaceship, presumably because she grew up in a jungle and likes her home feeling close to nature.
  • The Trigan Empire has supersonic planes and swords. Guns exist, but haven't made swords and spears obsolete, for some reason.
  • 2000 AD strip Nemesis the Warlock, intergalactic spacecraft, Humongous Mecha and swords and battle axes.
  • BIONICLE has this in spades- to the point where villagers use Powered Armor and robotic exoskeletons (and are themselves biomechanical) while living in huts and shacks on a tropical island.
    • At one point, Jaller, who would be at least somewhat familiar with walking vehicles, is taken aback at the concept of wheels.
  • Flash Gordon joyously lives on this trope. Mongo has swords and rayguns and riding beasts and rocket ships and anything that would be cool.
  • Darkseid's world of Apokolips often is depicted as this, having space ships, teleportation technology, and many advanced weapons, while making the slaves use wooden pulleys, carts, and hand labor to build stone castles. Most likely, this is all intentional.
  • Schizotech shows ups in the comic series Neozoic. The comic is set in a contemporary Earth of an alternate history where the extinction of the dinosaurs never happened. Humans use animal-drawn wagons and large sailboats for travel and trade purposes. They also make extensive use of swords, longbows and crossbows (a heavy rifle does appear, ONCE! And it jammed without firing a single shot too). However they have television and camcorders as well as other electronics. Stockades using electrified fencing have also been shown. The main character of the story also carries a unique wrist-mounted acid sprayer that she uses with devastating effect.
  • Though Star Wars is already slightly Schizo Tech because of a monastic order of sword-wielding monks in a highly advanced futuristic society, many of the comic books in the Expanded Universe that detail events that take place thousands of years before the movie have people wielding conventional swords and spears and bows and arrows alongside blasters, starships, and laser weaponry, such as the Jedi vs Sith comics having the Battle of Ruusan being fought by Jedi that use lightsabers, blasters, and ships alongside spears, swords, shields, bows, and other medieval-era weapons, while the Sith do the same thing. One Sith Mook in the same comic even uses a slingshot.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Worldwar: War of Equals, Humans are actually surprised that the aliens have tanks, aircraft, and technology that are somewhat weaker than theirs but yet they have starships and have cold sleep tech.
  • Technology is all over the place in Sonic X: Dark Chaos, depending on the planet and aliens involved. The Demons (minus Astorath and the Nephilim) and Angels are consistently portrayed as Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, but the Jewish forces range from flying pieces of welded scrap with machine guns to secret tech so advanced that it cannot be physically understood. Some races that Sonic and his friends encounter have little to no technology at all, using old wooden sailing ships (the Zeko natives) or straight up satanic Black Magic (the Marmolims).
    • The Muslims may be the king of this trope, combining fanatical spearmen and suicide bombers with golden nuke-flinging battleships and Body Horror-filled genetic engineering. It helps that its a totalitarian theocracy that considers many common pieces of technology to be haraam.
  • The Earth Alliance case (see the Babylon 5 entry below) is Lampshaded in Shielded Under the Raptor's Wings, when a ground battle between EarthForce and the Minbari is shown and the list of human weapons include both 'primitive' but effective firearms and mustard gas and more advanced PPGs, laser cannons to shoot enemy aircrafts and artillery shells out of the sky, and railguns.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Emperor's New Groove is largely set in an ancient Incan kingdom, although a floor waxer inexplicably appears for a one-shot gag.
  • The animated movie Dragon Hill seems mostly set in a medieval setting, with a character trying to improve technological advance (such as the use of television); in the end, it turns out dragons had developed a super computer.
  • Features rather heavily in both Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal 2000.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • Zork contains mostly World War 2ish-era technology that is augmented by magic, some of which uses devices that strike accord with pre-industrial paradigms.

    Music Video 

  • In The Flintstones, not only does Fred invent concrete several million years early, there's the Dictabird, the Bronto Crane, and a push mower with a giant lobster on the front.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The entire LEGO Universe, as depicted in Dino Attack RPG. We have knights and pirates shooting crossbows and flintlock pistols alongside astronauts and cyborgs shooting lasers and sonic weapons as all sorts of technology levels coexist in this world.
    • The Space Knights are a specific example, since their entire culture is based on Medieval Stasis enhanced by futuristic technology.

    Web Animation 
  • Audience! They have a feudalistic monarchy complete with peasants and castles in one location and space traveling robot engineers in the next. Not to mention magic.

    Web Comics 
  • An example is the satirical Bruno the Bandit, which is set in a basic "middle ages" fantasy setting, but still has vacuum cleaners, television (complete with every TV trope in the book) and cellphones.
    • The author Ian Mcdonald has said he originally intended the Schizo Tech to be the main source of humour in the comic, but soon realised it couldn't carry jokes by itself and it was left as The Artifact. There are still occasional gags such as their version of Youtube being called "Thoutube".
  • The Fourth is mostly a Zelda-esque fantasy world, but the authors are not afraid to throw in a Victorian-era haunted house, or phone when the plot beckons.
  • The Order of the Stick is set in a Medieval European Fantasy setting much like a typical campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. However, in various strips it has featured coffee machines, indoor plumbing, stethoscopes, bug zappers, cell phones, and even a desktop computer (the last one was admittedly owned by an angel). The Technology Levels appears to be whatever inspires the best jokes.
  • Girl Genius has numerous instances of technological disconnects, mainly because mad scientists have specialized talents and are more inclined to fight each other than to build something profitable. They have autonomous robots with advanced AI but no computers. Airships the size of cities cruise the skies, but no fixed or rotary wing aircraft. Energy weapons abound but no radio or telephonic communications. Probably because lighter-than-air crafts rarely crash on their own. For that matter, instead of parachutes they have "lifegliders"—hang-gliders looking like a bastard child of blimp and bat.
    • Prototypes are more advanced than mass-produced stuff, though. Gilgamesh Wulfenbach actually does invent a gas powered fixed-wing aircraft early in the comic archive (Hilarity Ensues). The chapter is aptly called "The Infamous Falling Machine!". There's a jetpack jetsuit—Mk II, of course ("dangerous, but amusing"). Castle Heterodyne has a holographic map updated in real time. The Master of Paris built a city-wide telepresence system, and keeps the Autonomous Library, based on a scribing engine made by Voltaire.
  • Questionable Content is set in Present Day western Massachusetts, but features sentient robots sold at retail, various Transformer-style mecha (Vespa-Bot FTW), and a major character spent her childhood on a space station. This seems to go forgotten for large stretches of time.
  • MegaTokyo appears to take place in a normal analog of the modern world. Except when the Tokyo PD breaks out the giant mecha.
  • While the setting of Blade of Toshubi is mainly feudal japanese, there have been instances of higher level technology, such as Reiko's training taking place in a chamber with nuclear waste barrels.
  • In Inhuman, the technology level of the planet Hekshano is that of 1970s Earth - but with spaceships.
  • The Way of the Metagamer is set in the Medieval time period of Dungeons & Dragons. There are skyscrapers in towns. With elevators.
  • DMFA has everyone using swords yet guns also apparently exist. Modern appliances and things like video games exist but the only known transportation is gryphon drawn carts. Also Giant Robots. Granted most of the tech is credited to be invented by the same character and some, like the guns, aren't in the hands of the general public and magical versions seemed to be the standard until recently
    • Lampshaded by the world description, which states that it's not uncommon for 21st century cities to exist a short walk away from medieval villages in Furrae.
  • Dominic Deegan, set in a medieval-type world of magic, has plenty of modern-day luxuries. Casting a lighting bolt onto a guitar will make it an "electric guitar", a voice-amplifying spell on a crystal turns it into a microphone ... yeah, they had a full-fledged rock concert. They also have newspapers. And comic-book superheroes.
  • The medical terminology in Vigil is a couple centuries more advanced than anything else they have. The flintlocks at least are explained by an international ban on all guns.
  • In Homestuck we see the warring kingdoms, who both have lots of crazy gadgets like flying warships, giant mechas, and high-tech facilities for genetic manipulation. However, right next to a squad of soldiers wielding assault rifles, we see soldiers wielding swords and bows.
    • Doc Scratch uses a typewriter to communicate with the trolls' instant messenger client through a time gap of almost a thousand years.
    • There is also ancient Alternia, which features sailing ships, swords, bows, cybernetics, and interstellar travel.
  • In The Rifters, modern combat fatigues and plate armor are worn by two different main characters, and no one thinks this odd. Then again, the other main characters are wearing modern clothes, a martial arts gi, or no shirt at all.
  • In TwoKinds, a character orders a pizza. This seemingly innocuous act soon becomes Fridge Logic when one realizes that the setting doesn't have the communications, rapid non-magical transport, or agricultural tech for food delivery, being just into Iron Age. Could just be a throwaway joke by way of anachronism.
  • The Clan of the Hawk in The Wandering Ones eschew most forms of technology, preferring to live as part of the land. However, their allies in the Alliance and the Yakama Nation are under no such restrictions, and embrace more advanced technology.
  • In Trope Overdosed The Webcomic, Bob lives in a world where he uses a sword, axes, bows... and owns a jeep.
  • Starslip Crisis' Show Within a Show Concrete Jungle (supposedly an accurate portrayal of the early 21st century) has, well, just look at it.
  • In Endstone, Rosie's Beauty Salon and Blacksmith is perhaps the clearest example of how this is a Sword And Sorcery United States of America.
  • The Tieke from Prophecy Of The Circle possess a number of hi-tech devices which were granted to them by a being known as Teyka, along with the means of replicating them. In all other aspects, their own technology is early iron age at best.
  • The small mining settlement of Prosperity in Cwynhild's Loom resembles a Wild West town in look and feel, however robots, aircraft, high-speed maglev trains and powered land vehicles are all seen.
  • Cucumber Quest: "Well, the people of Dreamside have television, electric lighting and space travel, but they're still fighting with swords. I probably decided on this because I've always liked cartoons and comics that blend old-timey fantasy stuff with modern technology for the sake of humor or whimsy or whatever."
  • Rusty and Co.: Electric guitars and soda machines accompany your traditional fantasy fare.

    Web Original 
  • Though mostly sticking to its mid 17th-century flavor, Open Blue has the occasional incendiary bullet (WWI), Minie-Ball (19th century), and swords coated with diamond (???) to make cutting easier. This of course, does not count the myriad of weird things left behind by the precursors.
  • Happens in the Chaos Timeline (at least from our POV). Some of the sciences and technological advances are discovered or perfected more earlier than in our history, e.g. Novorossiya invents the telegraph and electrical devices nearly a century before it happened in our history; cryptography, basic computer science and astronomy are at least twenty to thirty years ahead of our's in the early 20th century, computers of 1990 level are already found in the 1950s etc.
  • In Nocte Yin, the world of Erisire has horses for transportation and swords for weaponry, yet the main characters all have laptops and cell phones.
  • The Mercury Men's story is set in the mid-Seventies. But the lighting - and the monsters - looks like The Outer Limits (1963), Edward's and Grace's outfits look Fifties-ish, and Jack's outfit evokes The Thirties. And it mixes Dieselpunk, Raygun Gothic, Atomic Punk, horror and other genres seamlessly.
  • Vaguely Recalling JoJo
    • Jonathan uses a laser blaster (Metal Silver Overdrive) during the 19th century
    • Straizo uses a pineapple grenade as an attack.
    • Kakyoin carries around a PSP and DS during the 1980s. They both break.
    • Cursed Devo uses a clamshell phone during the 1980s.
  • Neopets: The world of Neopia is based in a "pre-industrial period", where this trope is dependent on region. There's sticks and stones in Tyrannia, the various Fantasy Counterpart Cultures have the tech level you'd expect, Moltara is Steam Punk, while Neopia Central is closest to real life but has nothing like computers, cars, or any sort of electronic technology. And orbiting the planet, there's the Virtupets Space Station and moon colony on Kreludor, although they were created by an scientist from outer space.
  • Ever After High the setting is fantasy fairy tale world mixed with modern day elements. The school is huge castle/ high school, and uses magic mirrors as tv screens, and students use them as iPads or iPhones.

Alternative Title(s):

Technology Kitchen Sink, Eclectech, Anachronistech